Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common concern affecting both children and adults. Grinding can occur during the day or at night, and may sometimes contribute to dental or health issues if left untreated. Today, we’re going to specifically focus on teeth grinding in children.
There is no single answer as to why a child may grind his or her teeth, but there are a number of factors which may contribute to this behavior. Some of these include:
- Stress and anxiety: Children who are anxious or stressed may grind their teeth as a way to cope with their emotions.
- Misaligned teeth: If a child’s teeth are misaligned or if they have an abnormal bite (think crossbites or underbites), they may grind their teeth in an effort to try to realign them.
- Sleep disorders: Children who have sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may grind their teeth as a symptom of their condition.
- Medications: Teeth grinding may be a side effect of certain medications.
Keep in mind, it is often difficult to determine the exact cause of teeth grinding in children. On occasions, the behavior may simply be a temporary habit or a side-effect of normal growth and development (such as newly erupting teeth).
If you suspect that your child might be grinding their teeth, talk to their dentist or pediatrician. In the meantime, consider some of the following suggestions:
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Help your child manage their stress and anxiety
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine to help your child relax and unwind before bed.
- Limit caffeine and sugar intake: Avoid giving your child caffeine or sugary foods/drinks (especially before bedtime), as these can contribute to teeth grinding.
- Treat underlying medical conditions: If your child’s teeth grinding is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as sleep apnea, it’s important to treat that condition in order to alleviate the teeth grinding. For example, a child with sleep apnea may benefit from a tonsillectomy.
In the majority of cases, teeth grinding in children is relatively benign and not a significant concern. However, it is important to still bring your concerns up to their dentist or pediatrician. The benefits of intervening in children with misaligned teeth, airway concerns, or underlying medical conditions are most noticeable.